How to Never Waste a Good Failure

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“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” – Auguste Rodin

Sculpting can be a pretty frustrating art form. Make one mistake, and hours of work can be completely wasted. It’s no wonder that the quote above came from a well-known sculptor who probably had to repeat that as a mantra at least a few times as he swept up stone chippings.

It’s very easy to get discouraged by even the smallest of failures, but when those big ones come they can be totally crushing. Don’t let a failure get you down. Instead, look at your failures and study them, because in each failure is the chance to learn more than any teacher could ever show you. Of course this is easier said than done, so try taking the suggestions below to heart as a way to help get you past your failures and on the right track for next time.

Failures can be looked at as a waste of time, but as Rodin suggested, if you look at them as part of the learning process, you can use them to your advantage.

Failure Is a Thing, Not a Person

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Just because you failed at something doesn’t mean you are a failure. Thinking this way will close you off to learning anything from the experience. You need to understand that the failure was just a thing that has now passed, clearing the way for success.

This isn’t some fancy positive-thinking double-talk, but a real idea. Don’t identify yourself with your failure. Accept it and move on. Failure is so closely tied to success that never failing only means that you never really tried. For someone to never fail is impossible. Billion-dollar companies like Apple fail on a regular basis, but they learn from each failure and try never to make the same mistake twice.

The Failure Solution Notebook

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There is a lesson in everything. While this also sounds like just a positive-thinking mantra, it’s still something you need to remember. Why did the failure happen? If a project at work failed, you need to take the time to look at exactly WHY it failed.

In a notebook, write the failure down on the top of the page and list the possible reasons the failure happened underneath it, skipping one or two lines between each reason. Now, give a solution to each reason for the failure. When you write something down with pen and paper, it becomes more real than if you type it out or just think about it.

Keep this notebook and instead of calling it your “Failure Notebook” call it your “Solution Notebook” or something similar, because while it starts with a failure, it contains far more solutions than failures. When you start a new project, review the notebook and never make the same mistakes again. If any new failures happen with the new project, repeat the process of writing them down with accompanying reasons and solutions. And so on. After a while, you’ll have a wealth of fixes to problems at your fingertips that you would never have been able to compile all in one go.

Don’t Recover From the Failure – Overcome It

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When you’ve just had a big failure you may feel like you need to take some time to recover from it, to take a minute and feel bad for yourself – but don’t. Don’t get down or sad because you failed; instead, get excited. True innovation hides itself as failure. If you fail at something more than once, you learn more each time. Apply what you learn and make the eventual success that much better and more repeatable.

Use your failure – sorry, solution – notebook and start planning the way to do whatever failed better the next time, even if you’re not doing it again. If you planned a birthday party for your friend and it failed completely, don’t feel bad that it failed. Be excited that you have the chance to make the next one better by avoiding the mistakes you made before. Spend your time thinking about that better party rather than the one that failed, even if you’re not planning another one.

Wrap-Up

The saying goes that the only two things that are certain in this world are death and taxes, but I would postulate that failure is the third. Failure is bound to happen and that’s not going to change, so you need to change how you deal with it. Does anyone today consider Rodin a failed sculptor?

Failure brings success . . . it just takes a few more steps to get there.

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